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Correctional justice and the possibility of rectification.

Lazar, Seth R. M.
June 4, 2015

Source: (2008) Ethic Theory Moral Practice. 2008(11): 355-368.

In this paper, I ask how – and whether – the rectification of injury at which
corrective justice aims is possible, and by whom it must be performed. I split the injury up
into components of harm and wrong, and consider their rectification separately. First, I
show that pecuniary compensation for the harm is practically plausible, because money acts
as a mediator between the damaged interest and other interests. I then argue that this is also
a morally plausible approach, because it does not claim too much for compensation: neither
can all harms be compensated, nor can it be said when compensation is paid that the status
quo ante has been restored. I argue that there is no conceptual reason for any particular
agent paying this compensation. I then turn to the wrong, and reject three proposed methods
of rectification. The first aims to rectify the wrong by rectifying the harm; the second
deploys punitive damages; the third, punishment. After undermining each proposal, I argue
that the wrong can only be rectified by a full apology, which I disaggregate into the
admission of causal and moral responsibility, repudiation of the act, reform, and, in some
cases, disgorgement and reparations, which I define as a good faith effort to share the
burden of the victim’s harm. I argue, further, that only the injurer herself can make a full
apology, and it is not something that can be coerced by other members of society. As such,
whether rectification of the wrong can be a matter of corrective justice is left an open
question. (Authors abstract).


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